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Suspending disblief May 3, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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soloway   Today, Dr. Elliot Soloway of The University of Michigan paid the College a visit. He is helping our Dean set up a charter school in Tucson and we all want it to be bristling with relevant and appropriate technology that will engage learners to their fullest. Samuel Taylor Coleridge once advised people to “suspend their disbelief” when reading so as to more fully engage with the poetry. I take that advice to heart the first time anyone talks about the positive benefits of a new technological tool.

Elliot and I worked out the first steps of a budget for the school’s technology efforts and in the afternoon, we visited the school site to see where the machines would reside. Overall, I was impressed with his vision of using handheld computers to engage students in writing and science projects. However, when it came to reading I was no longer able to suspend my disbelief. It turns out that their plan involves using eReader from Adobe to read electronic books. There are thousands of titles available online free but those are the titles that are in the public domain. Those are the ones published a generation ago.

I am concerned that students will not be able to access some of the newer novels without paying for them. Will students in that handheld-centric school be able to read Lovely Bones or anything by Ray Bradbury? It would be quite limiting to access only literature that is in the public domain. They will be able to read Huckleberry Finn and Red Badge of Courage with an eReader, but will they have access to notes? The notes, added much later can breathe understanding into a difficult text with dated language and antique phrasing. Will there be assistance with difficult passages? Are abridged versions of longer text available in the public domain? My disbelief will remain unsuspended until I can get a few answers to my questions.

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